A Wise Old Owl Once Told Me

Happy “Draw a Bird” day for December.

A wise old owl once told me that a good way to improve drawing skills was to draw upside down. That’s how this rather odd-looking owl came to be.
Wise Old Owl (2)

I’ve stood him up on his feet, but he was drawn upside-down, one of the exercises from Drawing for the Absolute and Utter Beginner by Claire Watson Garcia. This book was highly recommended by Matt Fussell, from The Virtual Instructor website. He lists it as one of the most influential drawing books he’s ever read.

About the upside down exercise, the book’s author says, “A crucial objective of upside-down drawing is developing the ability to see what works.” For me, the exercise is a lot about faith, trusting that the lines I’m putting on the page will ultimately bear some resemblance to my subject. It’s also about seeing shapes more than complete objects, and that’s something I always need to work on. This technique, by the way, is especially fun for portrait drawing.

This wise old owl was drawn in October of 2017. I’ve had him hanging around my little art studio as a gentle reminder to have confidence in what I’m doing and to be pleased with even the smallest of accomplishments I make.

Claire Watson GarciaClaire Watson Garcia is an artist and an instructor at the Silvermine School of Art in New Canaan, Connecticut. Her workshop for “The Absolute and Utter Beginner” has been a popular course for over twenty years.

For those of us who can’t travel to Connecticut and attend a workshop, the book is a good alternative. Drawing for the Absolute and Utter Beginner was first published in 2003. The latest, revised edition was published in July of this year.

Revised Edition

So, the next time you’re wanting to do a little drawing practice, just stand on your head! Only joking. It’s much easier to turn your reference upside down. Give it a try, and you’ll find it’s actually a lot of fun.


  1. Ohh that’s a great exercise! The brain usually believes how something looks and fills in the details without actually “seeing” the real thing. Drawing like that while thinking about the negative space instead of the owl is also good for training our artistic eye 😁 I found the original book, so I will be reading it in the near future, yay!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi Judith, I like your owl and this book! Thanks for mentioning the drawing exercise. I dug out my book and have been looking at it. I think drawing shapes has greatly improved my drawing skills. Exercises like this one has also helped me to SEE my subject better. Have a great day! 😃

    Liked by 1 person

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